26/11 mastermind and UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed on Tuesday plead "not guilty" in two terror financing cases against him. The Pakistan-based terrorist recorded his statement in the country's anti-terrorism Court, amid the mounting international pressure on Islamabad to rein in terror organisations. The Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan had registered 23 FIRs against Hafiz Saeed and his accomplices on the charges of terror financing in different cities of Punjab province and arrested him on July 17. He is held at the Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore.
"In response to a questionnaire handed over to him by the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Lahore regarding terror financing charges against him, Saeed on Tuesday submitted his reply in which he dismissed all charges against him. He pleaded not guilty," a court official told PTI after the in-camera hearing. The official said the ATC adjourned the hearing till Wednesday for final arguments.
The cases of terror financing have been registered against Hafiz Saeed in Lahore and Gujranwala cities in Punjab province on the application of the Counter-Terrorism Department of Punjab Police. Hafiz Saeed was produced at the ATC under tight security. Journalists were not allowed to enter the court premises for the coverage of the proceedings. At the last hearing on January 13, JuD chief's counsel had requested the court for adjournment of the hearing against his client, saying that Hafiz Saeed needed more time to record his statement.
On January 10, a questionnaire was handed over to Hafiz Saeed by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court. Deputy Prosecution General Abdur Rauf had submitted the questionnaire for Saeed in the ATC which was handed over to him for the reply. Cross-examination of prosecution witnesses against the founder of the LeT and his three close aides by the defense counsel has already been concluded. The prosecution had produced a number of witnesses against the terrorist. The ATC indicted Hafiz Saeed and others on December 11 in terror financing case.
The international terror financing watchdog FATF has decided to keep Pakistan on its 'Grey' list for failure to curb funneling of funds to terror groups LeT, JeM and others. The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which kept Pakistan on the Grey List for an extended period till February 2020, had warned in October that Islamabad would be put on the Black List if it did not comply with the remaining 22 points in a list of 27 questions. Hafiz Saeed, a UN and US-designated terrorist, has USD 10 million American bounty on his head.
In March 2019, a fearful Pakistan had even blocked a team of UN to interview terrorist Hafiz Saeed, by rejecting their visas. The JuD was declared as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US in June 2014. The JuD chief also carries a USD 10 million American bounties on his head for his role in terror activities. However, Hafiz Saeed's 8th arrest coincided with Imran Khan's maiden US visit after taking charge as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Here's an account of the times Hafiz Saeed was arrested:
(With PTI inputs)